Document 149190

LED Light Therapy:
An Effective Alternative Treatment Option
The world of new treatment options
and modalities can sometimes be
overwhelming for clinicians and therapists.
New technologies and modalities have
to be evidence based and scientifically
proven to be incorporated in a patient’s
treatment plan.
Although light therapy was documented
in medical literature as early as 1500BC,
it was the Danish physician Nils Finsen,
believed as the father of light therapy,
who received the Nobel Prize for his
work in 1903. Since then, numerous
authors and scientists have advocated light
therapy treatment (or the generic term is
phototherapy) for many conditions such as;
wound healing, rheumatoid arthritis, joint
and soft tissue injuries and pain relief.
The bio stimulus is dependent on the
wavelength used and for an effective
therapy to take place, the light needs
to be absorbed by the body. Receptors
identified for absorption of the wavelength
energy lies inside the cell. This will be
explained later.
Therapists are mostly familiar with devices
termed as low level laser therapy or laser
based light therapy. Lasers, however, have
some inherent characteristics that make their
use in a clinical setting problematic; mainly
limitations in beam width, heat generation,
high cost, and fragility. The size of wounds
and areas that can be treated is limited
because of time constraint; heat production
from the laser light itself can damage tissue,
and the pinpoint beam of laser light can
damage the eye (protective eyewear has to
be used by the patient and the therapist).
The modern LED based light therapy
devices offer an effective alternative to
lasers. These diodes can be configured
to produce multiple wavelengths, which
produce a more diffuse light so that larger
areas can be treated at a time. The diodes
are very robust, light-weight and produce
virtually no heat. It is also of importance
to note that LED light therapy has been
deemed a no significant risk by the FDA1;
thus, FDA approval for the use of LEDs in
humans for light therapy has been obtained 1.
How does it work?
Light therapy (laser and LED based)
stimulates the basic energy processes in
18 Journal for Unified Manual Healthcare
Fig 1. Hamstring injury with hematoma
Fig 2. 3 Treatments over 5 Days
Fig 3. Lymphoedema
Fig 4. 3 treatments over 5 days
Fig 5. Venous Ulcer (3 years old)
Fig 6. After 10 Treatments, twice weekly
(Note the regaining of pigmentation)
Volume 1 Issue 1
the mitochondria (energy compartments)
of each cell, particularly when nearinfrared light is used to activate the
wavelength sensitive constituents inside
(chromophores, cytochrome systems).
Optimal light wavelengths (proven in prior
studies of laser and LED light)3, 4, 5 to speed
wound healing rate lie in the range between
610 and 880 nm. These wavelengths can be
macrophage stimulation, lymphocyte
stimulation, and greater rate of extracellular
matrix production have been reported with
light treatment.
Light therapy can also be regarded as a
complementary/extra treatment modality
that will greatly enhance the effectiveness
of conventional treatment modalities used
in practice. The major advantage of LED
joint disease, RA, Gout, Spinal Column
Pathology and Osteoporosis.
• Callus formation: fractures, stress
• Nerve regeneration: Peripheral nerve
injuries, Bell’s Palsy, Neuropathy (in
diabetic patients), Postherpetic Neuralgia,
Herpes Zoster infections, etc.
Respiratory Conditions
• Upper respiratory: Sinusitis, Rhinopathy,
Croup, etc.
• Lower
Pneumonia, Pleuritis, consolidation,
Asthma, Inflammatory Lung Tissue, etc.
Dermatological Conditions
• Acne
• Psoriasis
• Eczema
• Keloid scars
• Herpes simplex infections (cold sores)
• Cellulites
Fig 7. A simple graphic to show light absorption by the cell
The depth of near-infrared light
penetration into human tissue has been
measured spectroscopically.
taken from the wrist flexor muscles in the
forearm and muscles in the calf of the leg
demonstrate that most of the photons
at wavelengths of 630 to 800 nm travel
between 2 cm and 20 cm through the
skin surface and muscle.
Light therapy provides low-energy
stimulation of tissues by lasers or LEDbased light therapy devices2, which
results in increased cellular activity during
wound healing in such tissues2,3. These
activities include collagen production and
angiogenesis. Wound healing has three
phases: first, a substrate is laid down,
second, cells proliferate, and third, there
is remodeling of tissue. Studies published
so far suggest that light bio stimulation
produces its primary effect during the cell
proliferation phase of the wound healing
process. It has also been demonstrated
that the mitochondria are receptive to
near-infrared light and that light increases
respiratory metabolism of certain cells5.
Processes such as fibroblast proliferation,
attachment and synthesis of collagen and
pro-collagen, growth factor production
(including keratinocyte growth factor
[KGF]), transforming growth factor [TGF],
and platelet-derived growth factor [PDGF],
Light Therapy is that it is practical, easy
to use, lightweight and portable (hospital/
home visits), effective, affordable and
The mechanism on which light therapy
works complements traditional treatment
plans in acute and chronic conditions due
to the following effects seen in patients:
1. ATP stimulation
2. Stimulation/regulation of DNA and
RNA production
3. Stimulation/regulation of the immune
4. Analgesic effect (acute and chronic)
5. Strong anti-inflammatory effect
6. Reduced scar formation
7. Cell repair if treated within 4-6 hours
of injury.
8. Regeneration of nerve, muscle, venous
and bone cells
9. Reduced muscle spasms
10. Increased blood supply
11. Increased lymph vessel diameter
Therefore, light Therapy treatment for
the following pathologies will be highly
• Soft tissue pathologies:
tendon, fascia, ligament, menisci, etc.
• Arthritic Conditions:
Vascular and Lymphatic Conditions
• Venous and arterial deficiencies
• Vascular regeneration
• Lymph drainage, lymph nodes
• Acute and chronic wounds
• Prevention of scar tissue formation (early
treatment essential)
• Pressure points (prevention) and sores
Practical Considerations in choosing a
Light Therapy Device for your Practice
Clinicians and therapists working with a
diverse range of patient needs are not
phototherapy specialists and have great
difficulty in calculating, or choosing
doses for effective treatments. This
could be a contributing factor in why
this amazing modality has been under
utilised for so long.
There is, a “Therapeutic Window” of
dosing, viz. 0,1 J/cm2 to 10J/cm2, that has
proven bio-stimulatory effects in tissues.
The treatment dose is the most important
parameter in successful treatment of
pathological conditions. It is also proven
that the wavelength is the factor that
causes the biological response in a cell, and
not the way of delivering that wavelength,
such as laser versus LED.
Pulsed emission affects the output
power and thus the average output
power must be taken into consideration.
When all or part of a photonic emission
protocol is in the form of pulsed emission, it
Journal for Unified Manual Healthcare 19
results in longer treatment time (compared
to continuous photonic emission) in order
to administer the desired dose. Numerous
studies have shown there are different
effects when pulsing light, as opposed to
continuously emitting light25-29
Before investing in a light therapy device
for your practice, a physical therapist
needs to consider the following:
For devices where the treatment
settings need to be programmed,
make sure you know the dosage (J/
cm2) formula by heart e.g. time (s) =
dose X cover area (cm/2) / average
output power (W)
• Treatment with LED based devices:
+ 20% higher dose
• Most devices’ output power is given
in mW. 1W = 1000mW
• WALT (World Association of Laser
Therapy) has published guidelines
(therapeutic window) for certain
dosages are available which may be
a better option for therapists with
little knowledge in the field of light
therapy. Using a pre-programmed
device emitting dosages within the
‘therapeutic window’ ensures an
effective treatment dosage.
When all the dose parameters are
equal, laser based devices can be
slightly more effective for deeper
conditions (speckle formation). For
superficial conditions, LEDs are equally
LED based devices are in most cases
more practical, mainly because:
• Wider aperture of the probes – can
treat large body areas, like back,
neck, etc.
• No need to wear eyewear
(spreading beam and no risk of eye
• Average of 50,000 hours diode
lifetime. There is no need to
measure output power before
treatments, as there is no lowering
of output power with time (laser
diodes’ output power lowers with
• They are more robust, lightweight/
portable and much cheaper that
laser based devices.
• Diodes are not heat sensitive.
It is safe to prescribe LED based
devices for home (ongoing) treatment.
20 Journal for Unified Manual Healthcare
A device that is designed with a
pre-programmed effective dose
is simple for the patient to apply
without supervision (the same as a
patient taking a prescribed dose of
With LED based devices, there is
no risk of harmful excessive heat
formation in tissues
It is a brilliant complementary
treatment objectives
Great patient tolerance, especially in
animal patients.
A few practical tips:
Always treat deep areas through the
shortest route to the area.
Diagnose the condition, and identify
the anatomical structure that needs to
be treated.
If structure is deep lying, treat anterior,
lateral, and posterior to the area, to
ensure light absorption in the desired
Keep in mind that light therapy has a
systemic, immune-modulatory effect as
well as a local effect.
Treat over lung areas, where
Bronchospasm and inflammation or
consolidation is present.
Light therapy can be safely used over
growth plates, metal implants, and
on patients receiving anti-clotting
Excellent results in treating most
conditions such as: Sinusitis (penetrates
bone, restores mucus membranes,
relieves pain and congestion, stimulates
drainage), TMJ, Bell’s Palsy (nerve
regeneration, immune stimulation,
(especially in diabetic patients - restores
sensation, with added value in balance,
proprioception, etc.), sport injuries,
over-use syndromes, etc.
An alternative for needles in
acupuncture points
Use light therapy before manipulation,
to relieve muscle spasms, pain, and to
gain better effect.
Also treat earache, sore throats and
teething in pediatric patients. These
are usually associated problems when
treating upper respiratory conditions.
Treat proximal lymph nodes to assist
in reduction of swelling and local
Blood irradiation: treat over major
blood and lymph nodes, such as armpit,
groin, posterior knee, etc. This will
enhance general pain relief (endorphin
secretion), immune response, and
general wellbeing.
When treating acne, tinnitus, or
sinusitis, also treat over the mastoid
Treat fractured or cracked ribs and
pleuritis. It will relieve pain and
encourage deep inspiration, and
effective coughing.
When treating the anterior neck area,
place a spoon or other light impermeable
object over the Thyroid. When treating
sinusitis, use a teaspoon to protect the
eyes from the intense light.
Treatment with light therapy before
invasive procedures (directly preoperatively
uncomfortable procedures), will result
in optimum cell/tissue condition, and
faster healing, less swelling, less pain
and increased immune response.
Treat acute conditions daily, for best
results. Chronic conditions (RA, chronic
pain conditions, psoriasis, and other
treatments) can be
treated 2-3 times weekly for 1 month,
skip 1 month, repeat 2-3 times weekly.
Warts, nail fungi and other longstanding
viral and fungal infestations: treat daily
or at least 3 times a week, for at least 1520 treatments, to stimulate the immune
response and assists in clearing the
Treat cold sores within 6 hours of
symptoms developing. This will ensure
an optimum immune response. Also
treat areas where cold sores commonly
appear for at least 8 treatments. This
will ensure less frequent attacks.
Treat the cause of conditions where
possible, e.g. in venous ulcers, treat
the whole extremity, and proximal
lymph nodes, for an extended period.
Light therapy stimulates regeneration
of blood vessels, nerve and lymphatic
vessels. Prevention is better than cure!
New research is ongoing, other new
advances and exciting research pave
the way for a vast range of conditions
effectively treatable by LED Light therapy.
From Alzheimer and Dementia sufferers,
eye pathologies, oral mucositis to traumatic
brain injuries, the list is almost unending.
LED Light therapy devices offer a great
complementary, effective treatment option.
Scientifically proven, non-invasive, safe and
practical; Light therapy is one of the most
effective treatment options for a vast array
of pathologies. From newborns to geriatrics,
from humans to animals: Any living cell can
be treated with spectacular results.
Volume 1 Issue 1
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Marietjie Venter
Marietjie qualified in
1982 as a Physiotherapist
from the university of
Pretoria, South Africa.
She also obtained a BA
degree from UNISA, South Africa. She has been
working in the clinical field since then and has a
special interest in Photo Therapy that includes
therapeutic Laser and LED Therapy. Marietjie is
still working in physiotherapy private practice and
lectures at training institutions for Somatology,
Physiotherapy and other health care facilities.
Email: [email protected]
Journal for Unified Manual Healthcare 21